Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) Pou Tikanga Graham Cameron said working with iwi and kaupapa Māori providers to protect community elders was a major focus.
"Regarding our kuia and kaumātua here in the Bay of Plenty, the korero we've had with our iwi and Māori communities has clearly demonstrated the concern they have for their elders," said Graham. "So that's a key driver in the work we're doing, we're protecting our marae and protecting our elders as they're such an important aspect in the functioning of our communities."
Graham said anticipated changes to the cold chain advice would give some greater flexibility and open up potential options for reaching more remote communities.
"There's new advice in the pipeline for the cold chain for the COVID-19 vaccine which will be really helpful for extending our campaign into those remote communities. For example, in Te Kaha, the community facility there is committed to supporting the East Coast people. Facilities like that will help the more remote communities, for whom getting to sites such as Whakatāne Hospital would be that much more difficult."
He said community buy-in was already high for the vaccination campaign.
"We're working hard with our communications. With Māori, face-to-face engagement, hearing messages from people they know and respect, such as kaumātua and kuia is what works and gives the vaccination message the biggest chance of success."
Meanwhile, over 700 people at Aged Residential Care (ARC) facilities were vaccinated in the first week of the programme being rolled out there, said BOPDHB Chief Medical Officer Kate Grimwade.
"We're taking the vaccine to our most vulnerable communities," said Kate. "We have contracted Cicada Healthcare, who are experienced with undertaking flu vaccination campaigns in the ARC sector, to undertake this vital work. They have vaccinators who are very experienced in the ARC environment and that work is continuing apace.
"Over 700 staff and residents received their initial vaccinations in the first week of the campaign, which started on Monday 19 April. The work started in the Western Bay of Plenty and will move to the Eastern Bay beginning this week."
Kate said the rollout of the BOPDHB vaccination programme was designed to target the most at-risk and vulnerable communities early in the process.
"We started with our border workers, which here in the Bay is predominantly our Port staff. We've administered over 1700 vaccination dosages to our Port staff and their whānau, and are following up with further rounds of vaccinations there. Since the end of March, we've also been vaccinating our frontline healthcare workers in the community and our hospitals.
"Cicada Healthcare is vaccinating at our ARC facilities, but we also recognise that many of our older Māori may not be in an ARC, and more likely living with whānau. So we have been working with our iwi and Māori providers to vaccinate kaumātua at the marae."
Kate described the vaccination programme rollout so far as an amazing team effort by everyone involved.
"We're working with local providers on local solutions, reaching out to the communities to see how we can best provide vaccination to them; to give the best protection we can for the people we serve."